Faces of Rhodes
Corbin Williams ′14
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Extracurricular activities: Woolsocks, vice president for Class of 2014, Pi Kappa Alpha, Rhodes Singers, Rhodes College Diplomats, theatre at Rhodes’ McCoy Theatre and Memphis’ Playhouse on the Square
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
Rhodes contacted me via email and I thought it looked interesting. I really liked the campus and I was intrigued by the fine-art fellowships for students in music and theatre, so I came down to audition for a theatre fellowship. I gave two monologues and sang a song, and, embarrassingly enough, I forgot one of the monologues halfway through. So I stood there for a second, still in character, but with a look on my face that said I couldn’t remember the words. Cookie Ewing, who is the artistic director, just said “OK, you held that for a while, way to stick with it.” Then she sat there and went through the entire monologue, taking time out of her busy day to work with me, a student who might not even come to this school. That really spoke a lot about the caliber of professors here at Rhodes—professors who are willing to take the time out of their day to help a student who they see struggling. As someone involved in theater, it is extremely helpful to have that kind of one-on-one attention from someone who knows you as well as a professor does. That really was one of the major reasons that I wound up coming here.
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?
Since coming to Rhodes I definitely feel more seasoned. I have more experiences under my belt because this is such a great environment for learning. I’ve been able to take voice lessons and participate in shows with well-known directors. For example, I worked with Nick Hutchison, a director from England, who Rhodes brought in to direct the Shakespeare play As You Like It. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work at Playhouse on the Square, which is a professional theater here in Memphis. Because of that, I feel like I’ve got an advantage against the competition in my field once I graduate, because I’ve already been able to work professionally. And that’s something that Rhodes does well no matter what your field is—they’re great at getting you internships and in connecting you with the people you need to know once you graduate. Rhodes students are able to graduate not only with a great degree and an understanding of their field, but with a great résumé as well.
Last summer, you were the lead male role in Playhouse on the Square’s Xanadu. How was that experience?
It was a blast. I went to the audition, and the director, who had directed a show I was in at Rhodes, asked me if I could rollerblade. I said, “No, but I can learn.” So after I got the role, I had to spend a lot of time learning how to rollerblade. There were a lot of falls and bruises along the way, but I eventually learned, and I wound up doing a cartwheel on rollerblades during the show. Overall, it was just a great experience to be in a leading role in a professional production. It asked a lot of me, but because of all the experiences I’d had leading up to it, I was up to the challenge.
What is your favorite thing about Memphis?
I really love how supportive Memphis is of everything it already has. One thing I tell people when they visit Rhodes is, don’t go to a chain restaurant, because there are so many great local restaurants, and Memphians love to eat locally. I’ve experienced the support of this city firsthand at Playhouse on the Square. They have just built a beautiful $12.5 million theater and are moving to add a $3 million expansion to that. This regional theater was able to raise $15 million from local patrons, which is almost unheard of. Because the city is so supportive, we have the “I Love Memphis” blog, the Memphis Flyer, and so many other publications about Memphis. Rhodes is blessed to be located in Memphis. So many other liberal arts schools are located in the middle of nowhere. Because of our great location, we’re able to learn in this special environment and then go out and experience the world when that time comes.